- Do I lose interest in my own life when I’m in love with someone?
- Am I often staying in relationships that don’t work at the cost of my own emotional, mental, and physical health in order to keep others loving me?
- Do I feel responsible for other people—their feelings, actions, choices, wants, needs, and well-being?
- Am I prone to leave bad relationships only to begin new ones that don’t work out any better?
Can you see the one-sided pattern in those questions? It’s always about the other person, not you.
So, if you have to answer “yes” to most of them, what does that mean?
Just like for many other people, the reason behind your excessive emotional reliance and your feelings of responsibility for the happiness of others can be summed up in one word—codependency.
Codependent Relationship — What Is It?
The identity and self-worth of a person in a codependent relationship usually hinge on the approval from other people. Most often, it can be observed in romantic relationships.
It manifests itself when your sole purpose in life is to make your partner happy, no matter what sacrifices you have to make. All your energy and time may go toward satisfying your partner’s needs and conforming to their wishes. Or you may spend a lot of effort trying to change your partner’s behavior—often destructive behavior, such as alcohol or drug abuse.
In many cases, your partner may constantly criticize and belittle you. They may call you names, make unfair comparisons, or abuse you in other ways. And when all the power in an intimate relationship is on one side, you find yourself thinking that you’re incompetent, flawed, and worthless. Due to that, you may disconnect from your family and friends, neglect your body and mind, or develop mood and mental problems.
It’s a harmful pattern. But one that you can free yourself from. And you’ve already taken the first step to freedom: understanding the meaning of a codependent relationship.
What more you can do?
Codependent Relationship: How to Change the One-Sided Pattern
Always making sacrifices for your partner’s happiness and yet not getting much in return, will cause you to eventually back yourself into a corner. But you don’t have to stay trapped.
Consider three ways you can free yourself:
1. Accept that something has to change.
Yes, it sounds simple. But it does you little good to know why you are where you are if you’re not willing to take the steps to get away from that unhappy place.
What to do: You have to face the truth. Accept that you are codependent and realize that it will have to change. Without making changes, you’ll just continue with more and more unhealthy, codependent relationships. Tell yourself that you’re done with feeling trapped and that you want, and deserve, the freedom to grow emotionally.
2. Accept that you can’t control everything.
It’s a fact of life. Though, until now, you may have felt that by trying to control the behavior of others you could escape what you didn’t have control over—most often your own negative feelings. Yet, instead of finding stability, you only learned to ignore the emptiness inside yourself.
What to do: Accept that you can’t control everything, least of all others. Only by letting go of your need to control others can you begin connecting with yourself. Healthy love means that both partners have individual identities outside of their relationship. So, talk with your partner about setting relationship goals that will satisfy you both, not just one of you.
3. Accept that you must satisfy your own needs.
It may seem contradictory, but time alone to work on personal projects or time with friends will actually help you really connect as a couple when you’re together. Of course, that requires building trust.
What to do: Accept and satisfy your own personal needs, nurturing a healthy self-love. Schedule time for doing things alone, like reflecting, walking, reading, or writing. Whatever it is that makes you happy. If you don’t have a hobby, perhaps you should find one. And don’t forget how important it is to spend time with family and friends to expand your support group.
Of course, once you begin taking steps to become a true individual, you may find that your partner reacts negatively to it. After all, they’re used to you catering to their needs. But, please, don’t let their anxiety over the changes cause you to slip back into the one-sided patterns just to keep them calm. If you truly want to free yourself, you can’t continue fostering this negative pattern.
Granted, freedom won’t come easily. You may feel anxious yourself or have trouble being alone, but it will pass in time. But if you just can’t seem to be able to handle finding your identity, why not turn to professional help?